Over the Hill

As always, I have to do a bit of research for these exciting match previews, so I set about learning more on the good people and place of Burgess Hill. Well, with all due respect (i.e. I might be considered rude and/or patronising) it seems to be the kind of place which has risen without a trace. I’m sure it’s very lovely, but it’s just “there”. It was almost easier to find out about Wingate, which doesn’t even exist as a place.

The second most interesting fact I could find out about Burgess Hill was that part of the town is in East Sussex, and part of it is in West Sussex. Which probably says more about me than it does about Burgess Hill. Far and away the most interesting fact was that Holly Willoughby went to school there, an image which I’m sure the nation’s 14 year old schoolboys, alone in their bedrooms with their “thoughts”, would like to be commemorated with a blue plaque. And that’s about it; I suppose on the upside at least it isn’t Whitehawk.

In spite of barely riffling the sands of time, Burgess Hill has sustained a football team since 1882, which is impressive – 65 yrs longer than Tonbridge has managed for a start. For most of those 137 long years the Hillians have occupied various Sussex and Southern County Leagues, with the occasional burst of Cup excitement such as reaching the Quarter Finals of the FA Vase at the turn of (this) century. They were promoted to the Isthmian League Premier Division after winning Southern Division in 2014-15, but have struggled to make much of an impression, rather relying on the misfortune of others to stay up.

A connection between the two clubs in recent times has been Gary Elphick who captained both, but left Burgess Hill at the beginning of February. The mysterious talent of Dan Thompson has also graced both clubs. Of their current players, striker Ben Pope was also marked out as a danger man on his day, but was another who quit the club this month.

This season Burgess Hill occupy their customary lowly league spot, and haven’t won a league match since thumping Lewes 3-0 at the Dripping Pan on New Years Day. However, with Tonbridge in fine form, and looking to do the double over their hosts, this match has banana skin written all over it if the Angels approach the game with any complacency, as Haringey Borough discovered at home a couple of weeks ago. A 2-0 start for Haringey was upended into a 4-2 lead by Burgess Hill, only for two penalties to Haringey in the dying moments of the game (to add to another one earlier) to bring it back to a 4-4 draw in injury time. You’ll have go a long way to find a referee as generous as that to turn a game around, even for the home team (in Tonbridge’s case, you have to go to Worthing, where it happens all the time).

Tonbridge are still unbeaten in 2019 and slugged out a tough 2-1 win away at Wingate and Finchley on Wednesday, once again coming from behind, and jumped the congested midtable to 4th place. Can they keep getting away with being comeback kings or will they come unstuck…..will the Angels heed the warning at the Green Elephants Stadium, or will it go in one ear and right out the other?

Walk out music…..

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Swift Redemption

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Even the best songwriters hit a bum note once in a while and today was Tonbridge Angels “Frog Chorus” moment, with Margate singing much the same tune. The preceding day had been nice weather for frogs, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised.

The pitch was in remarkably good condition considering the monsoon rains of the week, which was a testimony to the work of groundsman Peter Elves. A couple of years ago and we’d have been having a few blank Saturdays, which is not good for the team, supporters, or club finances, so the all round value of such a club stalwart should never be underestimated. 

What followed was no classic, as much due to the strong wind and the inevitable bumpiness which developed underfoot, as the soft top surface was pounded down by the payers. Tonbridge generally had the better of the first half, and took the lead when Swift responded to a corner as if it was a SIx Nations line out, flipping it over the Tonbridge attackers with his hands. An easy penalty call for the referee. A couple of Margate players petulantly delayed the spot kick by wandering into the box, and scuffing the penalty spot, momentarily forgetting that they were English 7th Division has-beens, not Primera Liga wannabees, but it made no difference to the outcome. Turner stepped up and hit a customary poor Tonbridge penalty straight at Wells, but it was hit hard enough for the keeper to obligingly throw it over his body as he dived out of the way.

Margate’s new signing Kadell Daniel was the brightest player on the pitch, which restricted Angels livewire Ramadan to more defensive duties, so the home team’s main outlet was through Parter and Turner down the left, but the two teams mostly cancelled each other out for the rest of the half, with Henly being called on to make one telling save in the Tonbridge goal.

The second half followed a similar pattern with both defences largely in control.  Tonbridge looked short of ideas as the ball went from side to side or over players heads too often, and Margate were now playing with the strong wind at their backs which was a definite advantage to their high ball bombardment strategy. It was also a huge relief to the Tonbridge fans, as the screeching wail of the Margate banshee was whipped away over the stands, to confuse the residents of nearby towns into thinking that the end of the world was nigh. She must either have extremely tolerant neighbours, or live on one of those World War Two forts in the Thames Estuary, from where she could still order a Dominoes without the use of a phone.

Margate’s unsubtle tactics eventually paid off when Swift made amends for his first half blunder by heading home the equaliser in the 83rd minute. The game perked up for the last 10 minutes as the referee, who had been suitably anonymous, decided to get in on the action with a series of inconsistent decisions which infuriated players and fans alike, and he nearly lost control as Margate saw the opportunity to defend their hard earned point with some agricultural defending which went mostly unpunished. 

In the end the 1-1 result was about right, with both teams getting dragged in to a scruffy game by the conditions. Margate’s new manager Jay Saunders could be glass half full with a point on his debut, or glass half empty on an 11th game without a win. Expect the Margate cheque book to take a bit of a pounding in the coming weeks. Equally, Steve McKimm could rue a point dropped as Tonbridge settle in to 9th place in the table, with his thin squad starting to look tired, or feel good about staying unbeaten in 2019, well supported by home fans who were in good voice, even though this frog of a game never turned in to a dashing prince.

Walk-off music, for those lucky enough not to be in the 530 crowd, remind yourself of just how disappointing Paul McCartney can be, and you’ll have a good mental image of the game……

Post match interviews courtesy of Angels TV

Face bovvered?

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It’s a Kent derby this weekend as The Gate are coming to town. Margate are a side that in recent years have variously been described as boom and bust, or a yo-yo club, with rather opaque finances. A Kent equivalent of those Essex teams where a local big noise turns up with a bundle of surplus cash which they need to move on rather quickly, only to disappear in a puff of used car smoke or a cloud of white powder a year or two later, and they seem to be coming back once again, financially at least.

This time around the bounce back from the last moneybags to disappear over the hill includes the laying of an expensive plastic pitch, and the news that they have found the wherewithal to buy their ground from the Council. One hopes for the loyal fan that this might be the prelude to a period of stability and growth, and not the site of another out of town Asda. But if you are a loyal fan do you really care if Buster Bloodvessel is a director, or about a bit of grandstanding by The Libertines, as long the team keeps bouncing back, butter side up? Face, bovvered?

On the pitch Margate had a recent spell in the Conference South, although they were relegated after two seasons, and this season have spluttered along, occasionally catching fire, but generally off the pace and now drifting precariously towards the lower reaches of the league table.

Frannie Collin, one of the best strikers to pull on a Tonbridge Angels shirt in recent years, still struts his stuff for the team. He is probably not playing on Saturday due to injury but if he does it will, of course, produce the catcalls from the Angels fans about how fat, old, and useless he is, while hoping all the while that he doesn’t get a free kick 20 yards out on the left, because they know it will end up top corner of the goal. Sid Sollis, another Angels player of more recent vintage is also becoming a regular starter for Margate. He could have been as good as Collin if his teenage ego had been better managed, but unfortunately he has drifted around various lower level Kent teams on loan; a wasted talent thus far, but he still has time. Maybe he’ll be motivated to give his old club a reminder of what he is capable of.

Coming in to this game Tonbridge had a wasted journey to Lewes on Wednesday, the match abandoned in monsoon conditions, with the Angels looking the better side. They stay unbeaten in 2019, in 8th place, but only 2 points off 3rd and with a couple of games in hand on those around them. Their main worry will be the lack of experienced cover which resulted in the call up for two academy players for the game at Lewes. One thing the club has not got right in recent years is a consistent pipeline of new players, as it has chopped and changed Under 21, Under 23, Reserve and Academy structures. Hopefully the latest Under 19 Academy set up, under the highly regarded Tom Parkinson and Jamie Coyle, will finally deliver what they need.

Margate had a tough midweek match against Dorking which they lost 1-0, including a red card, stretching a bad run to 10 games without a win, something which the Angels experienced through November and December but have put behind them. The upshot has been a managerial change at Margate on Thursday, with the return of Jay Saunders to try and spark a change in fortune. Or to spend a fortune. Tonbridge must have been very close to a similar move only a few weeks ago but didn’t blink, and have bounced back.

If it carries on this way for Margate they will be very bovvered, especially as they are the lowest scorers in the league and only 5 points off the relegation zone. As for the Angels, they’ll be very happy with more of the same, because this season the team spirit means there’s no keeping them down.

Walk out music for our old friend Francois……

Drowning not waving

37F7BB9A-DF0E-40B5-8595-E8407198F27BThe good people at the Met Office flagged up that it was not going to be a great night for football but, what the heck, non league fans are nothing if not hardy, and Lewes v Tonbridge Angels offered a tasty top of the table-ish clash. The joys of modern technology provided weather websites, live storm watch, and Twitter updates from the ground itself, so what could possibly go wrong?

Weather watch suggested that a deluge blowing up the English Channel would hit just in time for a bright referee to send everyone off to the pub warm and happy before kick off, but as the clock ticked past 6pm the game was on, so it was time to fire up the motor, drag Junior out of the pub (in fairness, from work), and to head for Lewes. Because of the time and the weather, the heavy traffic meant that the sat nav used the “alternative route” through the Ashdown Forest. By day this piece of high ground on the South Downs is the picturesque home to Winnie the Pooh. On a wet, dismal February night in low cloud it resembled a landscape from An American Werewolf in London, and it was a pleasure to see the floodlights of the football ground glowing in the distance, after a distinctly unpleasant drive.

The teams were announced, with Tonbridge calling up two academy players for the missing Parkinson and Stone, and Henly playing in goal with a heavy cold. At 7.30 the ref and his assistants trotted out to warm up on what looked like the only bit of solid ground, between various ponds, rivulets and wetland habitats. Clearly this was going ahead, as the rain continued to cascade down. Tonbridge dominated the first 15 minutes, playing the only way which was practical – direct, long, and running with the ball on the occasional ridge of grass that stuck out of the swamp. Close control and short passing were not realistic, and the back pass was suicidal.

Joe Turner looked particularly sharp on the left, and Ramadan and Folkes linked well on the right. Angels old boy Lewis Carey in the Lewes goal was tested with a couple of shots which he duly spilled, as trying to catch the ball was like mud wrestling an eel. He also turned one fierce shot over the bar. As time went on Lewes found their sea legs, and came into game, especially down the right, and on 31 minutes another Tonbridge old boy Luke Blewden appeared to turn in a cross to open the scoring, but he had done so with his hand.

Tonbridge eased back into control of the game, and looked the better side as the rain pelted on down. The ball stuck in puddles, players splashed around like the opening credits of Baywatch, and in the goalmouth Carey squelched about like a child in a paddling pool he’d filled with mud while his Mum’s back was turned. It was getting hard to take seriously. Was the Linesman flagging for offside, or signalling for a lifeguard? Who knows.

Eventually after about 40 minutes the two management teams joined forces to get the game called off, before someone was hurt by a mistimed challenge or contracting trench foot. I doubt any of the 250 attendees were surprised. In fact, the only surprise was that the game had started at all. So after a fine, hot pie, and a longing look at the excellent array of cask ales on the bar, it was off to the car and the drive back past the Slaughtered Lamb, to the warmth and welcome of home.

All in all a predictable outcome, but at least we gave it a go, and with ticket stub safely tucked away it’s a freebie for the rearranged match, diaries permitting. Walk off music – Warren Zevon, take it away……

Angels Resurrection

9853AD11-F024-4E15-A116-3AEACA8A34EC.jpegLike a lot of ancient towns Lewes has a few quirky place names, and my favourite commemorates the deadliest avalanche on record in UK history, which bizarrely took place here on the South Downs in 1836. 

Eight people were killed when an avalanche fell on houses in Boulder Row, in spite of warnings to leave. Maybe they stayed put because living in a street called Boulder Row just made them blasé about a bit of snow, when they spent the rest of the year dodging giant rocks rolling down at them. But it’s not the name of Boulder Row that gets me, it’s the fact that the pub which now stands on the site is, of course, called the Snowdrop Inn, which makes this a perfect story if you ever have to try to explain the English sense of humour to a German. 

And so to the Dripping Pan, home of  Lewes FC since 1885, bar a short break which probably robs them of a record of some sort. Unlike the Snowdrop Inn, the origin of this quirky name is lost in time, but it describes an atmospheric bowl for watching football and, whatever the origin, they got the name right. The Bowl of Dripping doesn’t have the same ring to it.

On the pitch, Lewes are on the way back from a lengthy decline. After reaching the dizzy heights of the National League a decade ago, they slowly unravelled to the Isthmian League South in 2015-6. However, promotion back to the Premier Division last season has been used as a springboard to press on this season, and they are currently 4th in the league.

Off the pitch they have been a successful pioneer of Community Ownership, which Tonbridge Angels have also more recently followed, and could well learn from initiatives such as offering a variety of membership plans, to local and national shopping discounts. They have a bright website with an online shop, e-program and options for easy online payments to their 12th man fund. In addition Lewes have a strong Ladies team, on equal pay with their men, in whose footsteps the Angels Ladies would surely love to tread. All-in-all the kind of innovative approach which has many non League fans chuntering into their warm beer about the merits of hob nail boots, and whatever happened to that nice Miss World show on the telly.

Tonbridge have been in fantastic form this year, with five straight wins, seeing off play off rivals Haringey and Bognor in the last two matches. Most telling for me has been that these have included matches where they have come from behind to win. In the previous two months, as soon as they fell behind they folded – now they fight back. D’Sean Theobalds seems to have been the catalyst for the post Christmas resurgence, along with the smiling assassin Chinedu McKenzie, but goals have been coming from all sources which is always encouraging, and the settled back four provides a solid platform. Unfortunately they have had to roll away Craig Stone, sidelined for a hernia operation.

Lewes may be temporarily dulled by the loss of Jonte Smith to Oxford United, but a fee was paid so they will have the option to buy in more firepower of they wish. It’s always great to see a player at this level given the chance to shine as a pro. Full back Leon Redwood is also missing due to a long term injury. On the upside for Lewes they’ll look at the possibility of the curse of the ex in this game, as Luke Blewden would no doubt love to prove Steve McKimm wrong for releasing him last season. Lewis Carey in goal is another ex-Angel on show.

Yet another cracking tie beckons in the Angels resurrection – maybe they need to have a word with the club chaplain, because it looks like Easter has come early to Kent! Walkout music……

Lisbie ‘avin you

B8C3E8E2-9670-4480-9DA2-B51FE22C2F28.jpegLooking for something to warm me up on a cold winter’s day, the 5th Round FA Vase tie between Cray Valley Paper Mills and Abbey Rangers caught my eye.

Many football teams around today started out as factory teams, providing social and welfare facilities for their manual workers. While the paper mills in the valley of the River Cray in North West Kent have long gone, their name lives on in their works football team, proudly in its Centenary Year. Cray Valley Paper Mills play in the clumsily named Southern Counties East League Premier Division, where they are in 4th place, and in tremendous form, with five wins out of five in January, scoring 15 goals and conceding only 2. Their own ground has long gone the way of the Mills, lost under concrete and tarmac, and they now play at the Badgers Sports Ground, near Eltham Palace in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Grand, eh?

While Cray Valley PM have solid roots in old-school vintage football, the away team Abbey Rangers have a much more recent heritage. They are mere youngsters, formed in 1976 as a youth club, to meet the modern social and health needs of community and family, near Chertsey Abbey in Surrey on the South West side of the M25. They play in the only slightly less clumsily named Combined Counties (Which counties? No idea!) League Premier Division where they are also 4th, and their January was equally impressive, with five wins out of six, scoring 11 and conceding 6.

This looked like a really well matched game between two form teams, but with the weather making the pitch likely to cut up as much as Aintree on the second lap of the Grand National, would it deliver on a pudding as well as it looked as if it should on paper? I set the sat nav for the Royal Borough to find out.

Transition from the Kent countryside to 1930’s suburbia was a drive up the A20 Sidcup bypass, which starts out wide and welcoming before settling into the familiar South London hop from one set of lights to the next. However, turning off this dreary dual carriageway, my route opened out to a wonderful wide green panorama, once the deer park in the grounds of Eltham Palace and home to the wealth of Kings, now the grounds of the Civil Service Sports Club and presumably home to a wealth of Brexit magic money trees. Well, they have to grow them somewhere suitable, don’t they?

Badgers Sports and Social Club nearby occupies a modest space, squashed in between a housing estate and the South Circular – more servants quarters than Royal Park, but is no less welcoming for that. It’s located a couple of miles south of Charlton’s ground at The Valley, if that helps you place it, and is also home to their Development Squad, and Greenwich Borough FC. The ground has one small seated stand on one side, and covered standing on the other, as well as creative use of left over scaffolding to cover one end behind a. goal, and a muddy but solid looking pitch.

First up the busy little bar, offering only standard Club eurofizz on tap, was slightly overwhelmed by the arrival of a full supporters coach from Abbey, including a cohort of fully kitted out flag waving hyperactive Abbey juniors, and this promised well for a bit of atmosphere at the match, In spite of the decibel level, it was preferable to being outside in the icy north wind until the game started, and when it did, it didn’t take long to get in to its stride.

Abbey pounded down the slope and on 5 minutes a throw in the on right was crossed back in, and Hartlebury unmarked at the back post nodded in. The noisy crowd from Abbey upped the volume early as their big side took the game to Cray, who took a while to settle. They did so on 15 minutes when a fluke lob from a half cleared cross looped over the Abbey keeper to make it 1-1. After this Abbey stretched the game well, while Cray focused on keeping their moves tight and short, with occasional long balls over the top of Abbey’s high line.

Abbey kept one time Premier League striker Kevin Lisbie quiet, and 15 seasons on from scoring a hat trick against Liverpool, he could only manage one shot into the fir trees in the first half. However, a lovely chipped finish by Tomlin, who had recently joined from Dulwich, put Cray 2-1 up just before half time, which looked ominous for the visitors. Both teams had played exactly the attacking game I had hoped for, but apart from picking the ball out of the net neither keeper had much to do as two competent defences coped well, as did the muddy but solid pitch.

Coping well was something which the tea bar comprehensively failed to do at half time, as the shambolic staff of four spent the entire break and more getting in each other’s way, managing to serve just 12 cups of tea in 20 minutes, so I’ve no idea how each side started the second half.

However, on 55 minutes Edgar took on a great through ball from Lisbie and, in the match-defining moment, Abbey’s last defender Kersley brought him down just outside the box and was rightly sent off. The resulting free kick sailed over bar, but Abbey were now restricted to playing just one up front when defending, or three at the back when attacking, crucially limiting their options. A tedious group of Abbey casuals who’d had two shandies on the bus, and whose vocabulary was limited to words beginning with the letters c and f, had applauded Kersley when he was sent off, but his gamble cost them the game. Abbey responded with great commitment and spirit, but never really looked like scoring, and Cray tightened their grip. Lisbie hit the bar on 65 minutes, and on 89 minutes Babalola did so again, but this time it was recycled and slotted home to make it 3-1. Lisbie had a couple more chances, as did Babilola, but that was it for the day.

Smith and Sains from Cray stood out for me, but their whole unit was well drilled and very composed, and deserved their win. Abbey also deserve full credit for making a match of it. Both teams played good quality, clean, high energy football, and this neutral was royally entertained. I hope the other 216 there on the day felt the same.

Another Saturday afternoon well spent. Cray Valley Paper Mills march on, and in this form have a league and cup double to dream of, while Abbey Rangers also have real promotion prospects. Good luck to them both.

Walk off music

The World’s your lobster

F72E890B-3006-450F-B7BA-6B37A5127EBE.jpegBognor Regis in February brrrr. What a shame it wasn’t scribbled down on the Isthmian fixture fag packet as a late summer game, not that this will stop those with younger livers and lower self esteem than me from making a weekend of it. I hope the Premier Inn aren’t too upset by the behaviour of the members of the De Montfort University Chess Club, or whatever cover the Angels Barmy Army have booked in as this year. Then again, once upon a time what went on tour stayed on tour, until Gary discovered Facebook. Now all I have to do is sit at home with the app, and it’s as if I’m there with them, watching those moves as he closes in….

Enough of the off the pitch antics, what can we look forward to on the pitch?

Bognor were relegated from the National League South last year after just one season. Like most relegated teams they have taken time to adjust to their new surroundings, but now sit in 5th place, among the gaggle of teams squabbling with each other over the playoff places. Like the Angels, Bognor struggled in December, but only lost one of seven matches in January, so both teams are in the best of form.

Following their visit to Longmead in October, Bognor were generally reckoned to be one of the best teams the Angels have faced at home this season, winning 2-1. They spot and develop quality players, an example being midfielder Tommy Block’s transfer to Hibernian earlier this season, and given that their Under-19’s beat AFC Wimbledon Under-19’s 15-0 last week, they have a strong conveyor belt of promising youngsters coming through. Expect it to continue to be tough locking horns with Bognor, not just this time, but well in to the future.

As mentioned above, the Angels’ league form has been excellent for the last month, capped with a disciplined performance against Haringey last Saturday, the cherry on top being a super strike by Adem Ramadan on 90 minutes to take a deserved win (in case you’re in the 1% of the population he hasn’t shared the video with, it’s quite good).

This has put playoff prospects back on the table for the Angels as well, as they sit on 42 points, one behind Bognor, and a 2-0 win against Ebbsfleet in the Kent Senior Cup on a very cold, wet Tuesday night this week kept the ball rolling.

This game is a hard one to call; it’ll be a real fire cracker if both teams go for it, on what is forecast to be another very cold winter’s day. Bognor have 10 draws so far this season to the Angels’ 3, and the away team might well be adding one more to their tally by 5pm on Saturday. But before all that, for the Barmy Army, there’s one night in Bognor – and the world’s your lobster……here’s a video of last year’s visit…..

 

 

 

Barking at the Underdogs

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Don’t worry, there’s no need to panic and check the calendar to see if the last four months have been a Bobby Ewing style dream (one for the over-60’s). It really is February next week, and Tonbridge Angels really are still in a cup competition. Not one with any money of course; it’s one of those “opportunity to give the fringe players a run out” (i.e. our season is going just fine without it thanks), or “opportunity to take our mind off the league” (i.e. oops, we’ve tanked again this year), type of cups. At the moment the Angels are probably somewhere in the middle of those two camps….. but it is a Quarter Final tie and the Angels are in with a chance of winning some silverware, so they will go for it.

Their opposition in this Kent Senior Cup tie (for that is what is at stake) is Ebbsfleet United. A step up of two divisions for the Angels, to a team who have turned around their season after a poor start, at the cost of one manager, and could even have a punt at the play-offs for the Football League. Who knows, with promotion to League status they could become the Paramount Park Panthers or the Thames Corridor Cougars, rebranding themselves to profit from some well intentioned but dimly thought through government initiative. But nobody does that, do they?

Back on the pitch, in the early rounds of the competition Ebbsfleet apparently mostly fielded their development squad, but the lure of a shiny tin pot is as great for them as it is for anyone else, so don’t be surprised if bigger guns are trained on the Angels in this game as the Final gets nearer. As for the home team, there is little choice but to put most of the first team squad out, as that is the best way to give the Fleet a run for their money. It should at least give the home fans confidence that they will make a fight of it. There are a few reasons for their recent return to form, notably the first choice back four being back together and playing very well, but it’s likely that one or two of them will be rested for this game.

It’ll probably be a backs to the wall, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid kind of siege, as the Angels try and figure how to break out with the bounty, while Ebbsfleet close in for the kill, but don’t forget that against all the odds Butch and Sundance did just that. As the saying goes “beware of barking at underdogs; remember they’ve got nothing to lose”.

The only possible walk out music is…..

Into the groove

7ffabebf-5101-40e1-b5d7-1fcf3d87b41bThe Incredibles were in town, top of the league and flying. Time to pull in a decent crowd and put on a show. The weather was dank and drear, with a strong wind and drizzle blowing across the pitch, making it a challenging day to keep your superhero cape on, as well as to play football.

To fortify the 520, the Tonbridge catering crew had a ruse for using up the Christmas leftovers, by dedicating a new Stilton burger to long serving defender Sonny Miles. Strong, long lasting and with blue running through his veins! Or was it slow to turn and smelling slightly of old socks, as one of his teammates suggested. I leave you to decide.

On the pitch, the first half saw Tonbridge having the lions share of possession, and enough good chances to secure a lead by half time. Frozone in the Haringey goal treated the ball like a block of ice, dropping it every time it came near him, and (sl)icing his kicks towards the burger shack with remarkable consistency. Maybe he was under instructions from their No5, so he could pop in and pick up quarter pounder to supplement his Neil Razor Ruddock diet plan, in the hope of a call up from Swindon Town. As the half went on the Angels had the best efforts on goal, but shot too close to the keeper three times, and hit the post, as chances came and went, when they ought to have been in front.

Haringey complemented the home team’s passing game with similar quality of their own. The rangy, athletic Nouble had a roving brief to find space and create opportunities, but the home keeper had little of note to do compared to his counterpart. Haringey were probably happy with the 0-0 score line at half time.

The visitors pressed more effectively in the second half, as Tonbridge over-elaborated in their efforts to find a clear chance. There was no point in the home team just launching the ball forward as the tall and wide Haringey defenders made short work of high balls. The Angels passing moves yielded another couple of good shots which the keeper duly fumbled, but nobody was close enough to take advantage, and the influential Theobalds hit the bar with a lovely curling shot from 20 yards, but the ice man’s fortress was not breached.

Meanwhile, Haringey’s tidy approach work usually ended in an overhit pass or a shot into a birds nest in the field behind the goal. Their challenge seemed to be how creater and provider Nouble could be the finisher as well. He couldn’t. The home keeper Henly had to be alert, but compared to Frozone he continued to have a relatively quiet game.

As the likelihood of an away point grew, Haringey seemed to be more content with “slowing the game down” (ie falling over and bending the referees ear) much to the annoyance of the home fans. What had seemed like a one goal game looked more and more like ending as a 0-0 draw.

However, Tonbridge’s own spring-heeled Dash, Adem Ramadan, had different ideas and as the clock ticked to 90 minutes he locked and loaded a shot from a clearance, and hit it perfectly past Harimgey’s blue clad keeper. Ramadan has always had an impact every time he’s pulled on an Angels shirt, but wasn’t scoring the goals he felt that he should – this one more than made up for it. The timing of the goal was as perfect as the timing on the shot, as Haringey couldn’t get back into the game and Tonbridge closed out a 1-0 win.

The result was the right one on clear chances created in an entertaining match, buoyed by two sets of fans who were loud and proud in supporting their teams in song at both ends for the entire match. While Haringey and Dorking, to whom they lost top spot with this defeat, have stretched away slightly from the chasing pack in recent weeks, this result emphasises that there are 10 teams who can still realistically fancy their chances of promotion in a wide open league, and Tonbridge are getting back into the groove at just the right time.

Post match interviews AND that goal, courtesy of Angels TV

 

Walk off music 

The Beast from the East

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“Did you know that there’s only one football team in White Hart Lane, and it’s not Spurs?” Yes, because I watched the FA Cup coverage of Haringey Borough as well. Good, that’s got that one out of the way. Arguably it’s not true as Hashtag United groundshare with them, but moving on…..

If Carlsberg did years for non league football clubs, you’d be hard pressed for them to produce a better vintage than 2018 for Haringey Borough. First winning the play-off final to secure promotion to the Isthmian Premier Division in April, then reaching the First Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever in November, and finally ending the year at the top of the Isthmian Premier. Most clubs would give their eye teeth for just one of those, let alone all three, and in 2019 they have carried on in the same way that 2018 ended, which is mighty impressive. They remain top of the League as January comes to a close, so will provide formidable opposition.

Not bad at all for a club that only crawled out of the swamp of the Essex Senior League in 2015, an event seemingly reflected in their club crest of an electrically charged monster devouring an opponents shirt. Hopefully they will be playing at Longmead in their green away strip to complete the image.

As for Tonbridge Angels, the midweek postponement at Wingate and Finchley, caused by the traditional 1cm of snow bringing one of the world’s biggest cities to a slithering halt, was a mixed blessing. On the downside it meant that they could not build on the momentum of an excellent recent revival against the struggling North London side. On the upside it avoided the risk of a cold weather muscle strain, or injury or supspension from an ill timed tackle on an icy surface. Although the players had made the trip by the time it was called off at 6.30pm, on balance they were probably happier not to have played. The few hardy fans who had also slogged their way around the capital probably had more mixed feelings.

So this is a monster of a game, with potential to be hugely entertaining. The curse of the ex could strike either side, as McKenzie shapes up against his old Haringey teammates, and Nouble has the chance to show what the Angels missed when he walked out rather perplexingly about 48 hours after signing a contact prior to the start of the season. A win for Tonbridge keeps their revival firmly on track. A win for the Borough sees them stretching away at the top of the league from the chasing pack. In the last year or so Tonbridge have too often failed to deliver at home in the big matches – this would be the ideal time to turn that around.

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